Obviously the central issue of The Handmaid's Tale has to do with the role of women in society, especially in the future, considering how much of a stark contrast there is between the world of today and the world of tomorrow portrayed in Atwood's novel. However, to actually quantify and sort out the differences between these two situations takes a bit more thought and depth.
Of course, we could easily catalogue the concrete changes: women cannot own property or have a job, and are thus basically restricted to the home...either as a servant, a wife, or a handmaid (in coarser terms, a baby factory).
On the other hand are the implications that some of these changes have had on the role of women. However, I think that the way women have taken the change...and how they feel about their places....is probably the most important topic here, because the novel can easily be interpreted differently depending on how the people involved accept things.
Prime example: Offred. As a handmaid whose sole purpose in society is to reproduce, it would seem to us that she as a person has been desecrated by the established regime. In our eyes, she is basically used by people of power around here simply for the "gift" she has (if one can call it such), her ability to reproduce. For anyone with an ounce of morality, this situation just seems wrong.
And yet, it is the accepted norm for everyone....even for the handmaids themselves it seems. Or at least, the established society would make one believe so.... However, Offred tells us in subtle ways that perhaps things are not so beneficial. She continually has thoughts of the "old days" back with her husband Luke, when she had freedom, despite never outright saying she wished better for herself. ....Until, that is, Ofglen steps across the line, clearing stating her rebellion on page 168, and it is obvious that Offred agrees with Ofglen fully....and not just a passing "Wish things were better" attitude that appeared in earlier chapters.
So really, it seems that at least some of the women do not enjoy the change in role. Considering that the structure of society is advertised as being safer and better protective for women, it is ironic that the same structure would put them into an even worse form of oppression.
Some might argue that the society IS optimal considering the circumstances...but to me it does not appear that much, if any, benefit has come from the differences in Atwood's novel. One would hope (and probably assume) that her intention for writing it was to promote gender equality or at least freedom...and not captivity as Offred experiences.